Cutting the Mustard
May 29, 2012, 7:15 PM
Filed under: organic gardening, Plant based diet, Uncategorized | Tags:

Tonight’s supper really did ‘cut the mustard’-literally. We enjoyed a big homegrown salad of mixed lettuces and bitters, hard-boiled eggs (did I mention how much I LOVE my chickens?), early greenhouse-grown tomatoes, as well as early-planted broccoli, peas and spring onions, all dressed up with a homemade vinegarette. Also on the menu were sauteed yellow squash ‘n onions, cantaloupe wedges and a new dish for us that uses mustard greens and garbanzos. Here’s a picture of our red mustard-almost too pretty to harvest:

And here’s the recipe:

Balsamic-Glazed Chickpeas and Mustard Greens

10 ounces mustard greens
1/2 large red onion, thinly sliced
4-6 tablespoons vegetable broth, divided
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon agave nectar or sugar
1 cup cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained

Remove any large stems from the greens and discard. Tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces.

In a deep pot or wok, sauté the onion in a tablespoon or two of vegetable broth until mostly faded to pink, about 4 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and red pepper and another tablespoon of broth and cook, stirring, for another minute. Add the mustard greens, 2 tablespoons of broth, and cook, stirring, until greens are wilted but still bright green, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in the salt, if using. Remove greens and onions from pan with a slotted spoon and place in a serving dish, leaving any liquid in pan.

Add the balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, and agave or sugar to the liquid in the pan (if there is no liquid, add 2 tablespoons of broth). Add the chickpeas and cook, stirring, over medium heat until the liquid is reduced by about half. Spoon the chickpeas over the greens and drizzle the sauce over all.

Serve warm, with additional balsamic vinegar at the table.

Servings: 2

While growing these beautiful and spicy greens, I noticed that flea beetles didn’t seem to bother them, even though they are known to love mustard greens.  I find that curious, since the nearby potatoes and tomatoes all show signs of flea beetles. Is it because of the spiciness or the red color? I ask because research tells me that RED plastic mulch laid early in the season on the soil can reduce flea beetle populations. Could it be that RED is the deterrent? I intend to do more experiments in the future. In the meantime, check out this closeup Michael took-not a shothole in sight:

Flea beetles are so named because they actually look like fleas and will jump like one when disturbed. When you see tiny holes that look like pepper on the leaves of mustards, tomatoes, potatoes, radishes and eggplants, chances are they’re being eaten by flea beetles.

For non-chemical control, floating row covers can be very effective at preventing beetles from reaching the crop, if it is grown in rotation following a non-susceptible crop (the beetle larvae overwinter in the soil). Row covers must be put in place and sealed immediately after seeding or transplanting, before beetles have a chance to find the crop, which doesn’t take long. If you apply the row cover AFTER you begin to see damage, you run the risk of  trapping the little buggars underneath it.

Flea beetles are small and persistent, so row covers will only protect crops if there is no way for them to get in. The covers must be carefully sealed, ideally with a continuous layer of soil along the edge of the cover. If you use rock or sand-filled plastic bags to hold the edges down, be sure to place them close enough that they provide a tight seal, even when the wind is blowing. The older row cover gets the more tears it has, so avoid using worn row covers for flea beetle protection since tears allow entry. We’ve long used a brand of row cover called Remay, which we’ve bought via mail order but local seed stores carry a similar, though heavier and more expensive type called Tobacco Cloth.

When you remove the cover for weeding, replace it as soon as possible. If beetles do get under the covers, sprinkle your seedlings with DE (Diatomaceous Earth)  then re-cover. Don’t forget to go back and peek under the covers every few days. Once your plants have several true sets of leaves, they tend to be strong enough at that point to withstand flea beetle attacks. The row cover really does cut the mustard!


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